GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Catholic Central boys basketball team has gone this season where no other team in program history has gone before. And despite a disappointing conclusion to an otherwise historical campaign, the Crusaders established a culture of excellence this year, and proved they will be a force in Class B for years to come.
“What I want people to remember (about this year) is how hard we played,” said Catholic Central head coach Guy Di Bacco after the team’s 66-61 loss to Sec. III’s Westhill in the NYSPHSAA Boys Basketball Class B championship game Sunday afternoon. “We didn’t make any excuses. We didn’t back down from any challenges. We were successful more often that not. At some point the season ends, and that is disappointing. I think how hard they played, even in the fourth quarter here, is a testament to their willingness to compete, and their willingness to strive for greatness.”
The fourth-quarter effort Di Bacco is referencing came after Westhill, a notorious powerhouse in Class B with five state titles since 2010, controlled much of the game.
Catholic Central was led by a brilliant, 29-point performance from standout freshman guard Darien Moore, who was playing much of the state tournament on an injured ankle. After Westhill’s James Derrick converted a three-point play with six seconds remaining in the third quarter to give the Warriors their largest lead of the game at 12 points, Moore raced right back down the court, knocking down a three-pointer at the buzzer that would springboard the Crusaders into the final stanza.
Bucket by bucket, Catholic Central began chipping away at the deficit. Freshman guard Sei’Mir Roberson poured in a trey ball from the right wing at the 4:15 mark to bring his team within one possession at 54-51.
Later in the quarter, Moore turned a steal on the defensive end into a fast-break lay-up, trimming the margin to two points with 1:13 to play.
But on Westhill’s ensuing possession, Catholic Central’s Nick Riley was called for a blocking foul on Luke Gilmartin, who knocked down a pair of free throws to extend the Warriors’ advantage back to two possessions at 60-56 with just 57 ticks left on the clock.
Next trip down the floor, the Crusaders turned the ball over, and were forced to play the foul game to extend the contest. But Westhill executed at the charity stripe down the stretch, knocking down 19 free throws for the game, and managed to thwart Catholic Central’s comeback effort, claiming the Class B crown with the 66-61 win.
Despite the disappointment of falling one win short of a state championship, Di Bacco was beaming with pride after the game because of his team’s fight and resiliency throughout.
“They (Westhill) withheld our charges,” said Di Bacco. “We played with heart. I thought we played fearless. And…it looked like they were having fun. The outcome does not show it. And that feeling is hopefully something we can grow and build upon, but I’m really proud of the way they fought to the final whistle.”
Roberson joined Moore as the only other Crusader to score in double figures, tallying 13 points.
Catholic Central concludes the season 25-2 – a season highlighted by the program’s first Sec. II, Class B title since 1981, and first-ever regional championship.
Next year’s team will be loaded with talent, anchored by the return of their sterling freshmen backcourt duo, and fellow freshman Qwameik Smith, who was fourth on the team in scoring and second in rebounding.